The Intermountain Foundation will be hosting its annual Festival of Trees online this year from Nov. 30 to Dec. 4. The event includes a silent auction, a gift boutique and a virtual visit with Santa.
“We tried really hard this year to be able to do as much virtual and still use as many departments as we can just so we can get it out to the public,” said Jonique Dyer, co-chair of the Festival of Trees Volunteer Board. “It’s just amazing to see how much people are willing to give for this cause. It’s just incredible.”
Dyer has been involved with the Festival of Trees, a charity auction of community-created holiday decorations, for 22 years. She joined after a neighbor lost a nine-month-old baby to a heart defect and friends came together to honor their friend’s late child.
“We were just so impressed with the whole process and how much money that we could raise,” Dyer said. “We started with $1,500 to do the tree, and it sold for $5,300. I think that, for me, was when I was hooked. I thought, if I can make this much effort to raise that much money, I want to do this every year. I have been able to be blessed enough to get donations every year to do a tree since.”
Monetary donations can come from friends and family, but also from corporations. Dyer noted that trucking companies donate time and money to help deliver items purchased or won as well as deliver items being donated. In addition to designing trees, Utah residents can donate blankets, furniture, handmade craft items, sweets and so much more.
Last year, the Festival of Trees raised $1.2 million to support patient care at Primary Children’s in Salt Lake City. Organizers hope to raise more this year as the virtual event gives them a bit more artistic freedom.
“There are a lot of virtual aspects that we hadn’t considered that will definitely benefit us in years to come,” Dyer said.
The board Dyer is a part of is made up of 80 individuals who all dedicate their time and expertise to help the event run smoothly. The event is free to attend, although those interested in participating in the silent auction of small and large trees will have to pay a small fee to register online.
Dyer said that in the past, auction trees had plaques detailing their stories. This year those summaries will be online.
“A lot of the trees have a story, like why did we do this tree and who is this tree dedicated to. All of those stories will be right with the tree,” she added.
The silent auction will open at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov 30. Additionally a new program this year, called “A Gift of Love,” will donate a blanket, stuffed animal and book to children in need. Dyer explained that purchasing one will ensure that parents who might not be able to afford presents can give their children something.
“It’s so tender and so great for people who just want to be a part of it,” Dyer said.
All the money donated and raised will benefit children not just in Utah but across the entire Intermountain West. In addition to helping with medical costs, donations also fund necessary programs for patients, such as art or music therapy.
“It addresses the emerging health needs of children, and that’s a really exciting piece of what this money can go to,” said Jennifer Toomer-Cook, the media relations manager for Intermountain Healthcare. “It means going beyond what we do here at the hospital and getting into the communities to keep children healthy so they don’t necessarily need to come to the hospital.”
Those that are interested in donating or participating in the event can find more information at FestivalofTreesUtah.org.